A lot is being said these days about racial reconciliation, most of it lacking support in Scripture as well as in Science. In fact, the prevailing attitudes about race are not only woefully lacking in their scientific credentials but they are utterly devoid of anything remotely resembling exegetical warrant. My personal opinion is that the racial reconciliation movement along with the #MeToo movement has converged into a Tsunami of liberal Protestant theology in an attempt to overwhelm and crush the SBC as well as whatever is left of the evangelical movement. This objective has proven to be much more effective than anticipated due to politically motivated, weak-minded men that occupy most leadership positions in the evangelical world today, especially in the SBC. These men are used to compromising the truth for all sorts of political and pragmatic reasons. Couple that with their intense appetite to be liked and respected by as broad an audience as possible and liberal Protestantism, in the name of racial reconciliation and women’s issues, has all it needs to move these men like pawns in a chess match. Checkmate!
Now, the basic concept behind colorblind theology (a term I loathe by the way), is essentially this; melanin is an unbiblical and unscientific way to classify human beings. We choose not to attach undue significance to this particular genetic feature just like we don’t make much of a person’s hair or eye color, their ear size, or the size of their nose. This does not mean that we are trying to deny the history of racism or slavery in America. It simply means that we reject the idea that human beings can be divided into races based on something as arbitrary as melanin. It is completely irrelevant what pagan society has done or is doing. Pagan society is insisting that we use feminine pronouns on men who want to self-identify as a woman. We reject that too. It is both unbiblical and unscientific just like categorizing human beings based on melanin is unbiblical and unscientific. How much melanin is required before someone is called a person of color. Can you be a person of color in the summer and a white person in the winter? I think the bigger problem is the idea that a person wants to make ado over the level of melanin in their skin. So, what! Just because your melanin matches that guys melanin, is that any reason to align your cultural values with his cultural values? How many different white cultures are there in America? There are tons. There isn’t one white culture. That is a myth. My culture is vastly different from the one I just witnessed in Denver CO. It is vastly different from the one I witnessed in Seattle and the one I saw in LA. What colorblind theology is saying is that there is no good reason to go on categorizing people based on the melanin in their skin and then judging them based off that factor.
Recently, Mika Edmonson put up an article at Core Christianity entitled, Why the Bible Doesn’t Teach Us To Be Colorblind. It is that article that I wish to critique in this post. Edmonson begins his article with the following observation:
As part of his daily prayers, a typical first-century Jewish man began by thanking God for not making him a Gentile, a slave—and finally—for not making him a woman. In a fallen world, we are socially conditioned by messages about who’s important and who’s not, who’s precious and who’s expendable, who should be in and who should be out. Race, class, and gender are the fault lines of sinful disparity and division that pass from the world right into the church.
Notice how Edmonson is attempting to tie the Galatian heresy to racialist and feminist attitudes. Is this really what was going on in Galatians? No, it is not. The Galatian heresy only spilled over into social behaviors because of the theological thrust of the Judaizers. Koestenberger wrote, Soon after Paul left the area, false teachers infiltrated the church preaching a different gospel – a gospel that insisted that keeping the law of Moses, in particular receiving circumcision, rather than faith in the gospel of grace alone was essential to salvation. [The Cradle, The Cross, And The Crown] The issue was not racial at its core. It had ethnic impacts, but those impacts were derivative of the Law of Moses, not social attitudes about others from different ethnicities. If Law-keeping was still necessary, then those Gentiles who refused to keep the law should be avoided because they can make one unclean. It was not a racial attitude that was driving the theology. It was the theology that was creating the ethnic divide. Law-keeping demanded that the Jew maintained a certain kind of relationship with the Gentile who had not converted to the law. Edmonson is reading something into the argument that is not there.
Edmonson goes on to say that Colorblind theology…also suggests that racialized sin is too entrenched and powerful for the gospel to heal. He provides no warrant for this claim. He tosses it out and expects people to just take his word for it. Well, not only can I not take his word for it, I don’t even know how he would formulate an argument that would even come close to supporting such a claim. Colorblind theology nowhere entails the belief that the gospel cannot heal those affected by the sin of racism. To the contrary, most of those I know who hold this view would say that the gospel is the only hope for anyone who has a racist heart.
Edmonson then turns to the Westminster Larger Catechism on its understanding of the requirements of the sixth commandment. Edmonson says, Under sins forbidden, the catechism specifically includes the sin of “oppression.” Its source text for this sin is Exodus 1:14 and the race-based discrimination and enslavement of the Hebrews under Egyptian bondage. However, for starters, Egyptian slavery for the Jews was not race-based. It was familial. This was the family of Jacob. Ethnicity was completely irrelevant. The thinking behind Jewish slavery was self-preservation on the Egyptian’s part. But let us not lose sight of the redemptive aspects of this event. After all, the primary purpose of this event is theological, revelatory. God is revealing something about himself. Moreover, the requirements of the sixth commandment are spelled out in the commandment itself and expounded by Jesus in Matt. 5. The Hebrew idea is the unjust or even negligent/careless taking of a human life. In addition to this, Jesus tells us that we are not to be angry with our brother, not to say to our brother that he is a “good for nothing,” and not to call our brother a fool. France tells us that by adding these requirements, Jesus “adds a far-reaching new dimension by turning attention also to the motives and attitudes which underlie the act, and which are not susceptible to judicial process.” [France, NICNT] Edmonson’s ideas seem far-fetched at best. Of course, racism would be covered by the sixth commandment, but not in the way that Edmonson claims. Edmonson wants to incorporate the political fight against oppression as a requirement of the sixth commandment and he thinks the WCF provides the bridge he needs to get there.
Now, if Edmonson is correct in his extremely broad interpretation of the sixth commandment, and Christians are commanded to fight against oppression and to stand up for the oppressed in the way modern Americans define oppression and standing up against it, then he might have an argument. However, there is nothing in the commandment itself or in Jesus’ own interpretation of the commandment to commend Edmonson’s position. In the larger catechism the question Edmonson is referencing is actually Q 136, What sins are forbidden in the sixth commandment? Edmonson is arguing that here that colorblind theology entails the refusal to address sinful disparities. For example, he writes, “Without any acknowledgment of the particularity of historic and contemporary racialized sin in America, the church remains unable to “repent of particular sins particularly.” Repentance for past racism is not something the church is able to do. Only the member(s) of a church can repent of their sin, which would include racism. Sin isn’t something the church commits. It is something the members of a church can commit. This is how the churches are always addressed in Scripture. When the Corinthian man was excommunicated for his immorality, it wasn’t the church that was excommunicated but the member guilty of the particular sin. Also, note that Edmonson applies the WCF 15.5 to this idea of universal guilt and repentance to the church for the particular sin of racism. However, when one examines WCF 15.5, what they find is incredibly different from what Edmonson claims: Men ought not to content themselves with a general repentance, but it is every man’s duty to endeavour to repent of his particular sins, particularly. (Ps. 19:13, Luke 19:8. 1 Tim 1:13, 15). Notice the language men, every man, his particular sins, etc. Edmonson wants to apply this statement broadly to “white evangelicals.” Edmonson has omitted his in the quote of the confession and that is a serious breach of ethics. He isn’t quoting the confession even though his use of quotation marks claims that he is. Additionally, Q 136 of the catechism is not saying that the church has a duty to end oppression. It is saying that the church has a duty not to oppress others. But the Scriptures themselves openly and clearly instruct slaves to obey their masters for the sake of Christ. And these same Scriptures openly instruct masters to treat their slaves as brothers, with dignity and kindness. Nowhere does the NT instruct the church to free the slaves, to fight for their freedom, nor does it order Christian masters to grant their slaves their freedom. Since this is the case, Scripture cannot be used to say that disparity, or better, inequality is inherently sinful.
So far, Edmonson has misrepresented the Galatian heresy, attempting to read into it a racism that was not racism, at least not in the way we understand racism. He has intentionally misquoted the WCF 15.5, deliberately omitting the singular masculine personal pronoun so that he could apply the language to the church and hence support his narrative. Finally, he has played extremely loose in his interpretation of the larger catechism in his understanding of the word ‘oppress.’ Not only that, he has engaged in the rhetoric of racial reconciliation which demands that Christians living today repent of sins committed by Christians who have long since died. There is nothing in Scripture to support such foolishness. When Hezekiah became King in Judah, he reversed the sinful idolatry of his father, Ahaz:
He did right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father David had done. He removed the high places and broke down the sacred pillars and cut down the Asherah. He also broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the sons of Israel burned incense to it; and it was called Nehushtan. (2 K 18:3-4)
What has happened in modern culture to indicate that the sin of racism is predominantly a sin of America’s past? Well, for one thing, we no longer have this:
We no longer have this sort of structure, and predominantly, we no longer think this way about ourselves. In addition, the laws have been significantly modified to provide opportunities specifically for those who suffered the negative effects of racists attitudes of years past. What men involved in the racial recon movement fail to understand is that it is just as sinful for them to demand repentance from the church at large today as it was for Christians of yesterday to adopt the hateful attitude of racism.
I prefer Benjamin Keach’s Baptist Catechism:
- What is required in the sixth commandment?
- The sixth commandment requires all lawful endeavors to preserve our own life and the life of others.
- What is forbidden in the sixth commandment?
- The sixth commandment absolutely forbids the taking away our own life, or the life of our neighbor unjustly, or whatsoever tendeth thereto.
Edmonson goes on to say, “We must acknowledge our ethnic distinctions and intentionally hold those distinctions in a way that makes our full equality in Christ clear.” Apparently, it is lost on Edmonson that melanin is not an ethnic distinction. We are all Gentiles, those of us who are not Jews. Colorblind theology does not insist that there are no white or black people in the world. It insists on not judging people based on skin tone and it insists on not leading with skin tone as a primary means to classify human beings. Moreover, I am not sure what Edmonson is getting at. Of course, we are talking metaphorically when we say we are colorblind. What is it about our ethnic distinctions that we must acknowledge and intentionally hold? Is he saying that I have to make much of my Irish/German descent but do so in a way that also makes my full equality in Christ clear? Why should I do that? Why should I care about my ethnic heritage now that I am in Christ? I come from Adam the same as every other man. What does it look like for me to acknowledge my Irish/German descent? To make much of it? To not lose it? I am not sure, and I honestly don’t care much about it either. In fact, it only comes up in vain conversations where men are bragging about their ancestry. I have enough vanity in my life without intentionally focusing on my ethnicity and making more of it than should be.
In summary then, Edmonson’s first point, that colorblind theology mistakes Galatians 3:28 to be about erasing ethnic distinctions when it is really about erasing ethnic disparities is patently false. In Christ, from a soteriological point of view, there are no distinctions, ethnic or otherwise. Galatians is about justification by faith alone in Christ alone. It is a response to Judaizers who were not trying to exclude Gentiles, but who were attempting to impose law-keeping, specifically, circumcision on Gentile Christians as a requirement to be a Christian. Second, there is no logical relationship between “colorblind theology” and the refusal to address sinful disparities. Edmonson assumes too much about disparities and the sinfulness that supposedly attaches to them. The thrust of his argument assumes far too much and proves far too little. Moreover, he illegitimately treats the idea of repentance, replacing the biblical concept which is individualistic because only individuals can sin, with an institutional concept, something that is foreign to NT theology. Finally, supposed disparities among races in western culture have been shown to be far more complex than Edmonson or anyone else in the racial recon movement care to admit. For example, someone will need to explain why disparities exists from one black group to another. Why is it that West Indian black people out-perform black people who are several generations in American culture now? This is one example of many. See this article for more details: http://quillette.com/2018/05/14/the-racism-treadmill/
I now think that there are two movements within evangelicalism that are intentionally designed to disintegrate the gap that has existed between liberal Protestantism and evangelicalism. The racial reconciliation movement is one of them. When we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. as a Christian man, a godly man to be admired, adored, and a model to be emulated, we necessarily loosen Christian morality as well as doctrinal integrity. To say such glowing things about King is to say, at the same time, that heretical doctrine is not that big a deal, or that these doctrines that King held are not really heresy at all. Secondly, to say that King is an example to be emulated is to say that serial adultery and fornication along with drunkenness and orgies are not detrimental to Christian morality. If this is really the attitude of the majority of black Christians and the predominant view of black Churches, then to join hands with them is to immediately admit that doctrinal and moral purity are secondary to these greater social concerns that are more important to the black community than the purity and integrity of the gospel. That is a serious indictment. The other movement is the #MeToo movement. Under the guise of this movement, women who have been legitimately abused are being used to smuggle in feminist ideologies. Those ideologies start with the uncontroversial position that abused women should be protected and from there, they move to an extremely broad and radical definition of abuse to introduce new grounds for divorce within the church. But it doesn’t stop there. The real aim is the pulpit. The real goal is female leadership in the church.
Racial reconciliation leads us to a lax moral standard because it downplays morality and theology while elevating social concerns. It does this by elevating men as heroes of the faith who were actually enemies of the faith despite the worldly good they may have accomplished. #MeToo leads to lax moral standards around marriage and downplays the theological significance of male leadership in the church. The very basic design of creation itself from the beginning is dispensed with, male leadership, in preference for what pagan society demands. Not only that, the institution of marriage finds itself again under attack in the Christian church. This happens when we take our eyes off the truth of Scripture which is clear on the matter of divorce and we instead place them on “me.” Divorce for any reason is ‘selfism’. It is a refusal to submit to Scripture, to trust divine sovereignty, and to put the gospel above our own needs, wants, and wishes.
Paul wrote to Timothy, saying, “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God.” (2 Tim. 1:8) It sounds unpopular to oppose the racial recon movement. It sounds even more unpopular to inform a Christian wife that she cannot divorce her husband unless he is in unrepentant adultery or unless he abandons her proving his faith to be false to begin with. But it is nevertheless true. Are you willing to suffer the scorn of pagan culture? Are you willing to ruin your reputation and credibility with certain people for the sake of the clearly revealed truth of God’s word? Or, do you prize something more than you do God’s truth?